Over time, various jurists articulated what they saw as the underlying “goals” (maqasid) of Sharia law – in fact, the “spirit” of the law. For example, the eminent Persian jurist Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (died 1111 AD) listed five goals: the preservation of a person`s faith, soul, intellect, descendants/ancestors, and wealth. He stressed that all decisions that preserve these principles can be considered in the public interest (as long as they do not violate clear provisions of the Qur`an or the Sunnah). In Islam, all food is either haram (forbidden) or halal (allowed). All fruits, vegetables, cereals and seafood are halal, as is meat made humanely with appropriate prayers pronounced at the death of the animal. Pork, alcohol and any food sacrificed to idols are haram. However, these rules have some leeway: if Muslims eat food without realizing it is Haram, they will not be held accountable. When Muslims are hungry, they can eat whatever is available. At the first press conference after the takeover, a Taliban spokesman said issues such as the media and women`s rights would be respected “within the framework of Islamic law,” but the group has yet to provide details on what that would mean in practice. Moreover, many Muslims see Islam as more emancipatory to women than today`s Western culture, which they see as reduced as mere sexual objects, and as the culture of their heritage (if they are ethnic minorities). Young Muslims, in particular, are concerned to distinguish what they consider to be “true Islam” from the “cultural” practices of their parents and grandparents.
They often reject patriarchal attitudes and behaviors, such as the failure of many mosques in Britain to provide a space for women to pray, as merely “cultural,” with no place at the heart of religion itself. In response, reformist jurists around the world, including many women, are proposing new interpretations of the Qur`an and hadiths to challenge the patriarchal aspects of Islamic law.  Fiqh regulates correct behavior in two types of relationships: those between God and man, especially the religious duties of humanity, and those between people themselves. It divides human activities into those that are mandatory, recommended, neutral, discouraged or forbidden (haram). For example, a Muslim who wonders what to do when his colleagues invite him to the pub after work may turn to a Sharia scholar to ensure that he is acting within the legal framework of his religion. But what about widespread accusations that Sharia councils discriminate against women? Militant Islamist groups are known to adopt puritanical interpretations of Sharia law. Among others, al-Qaeda, al-Shabab and the self-proclaimed Islamic State want to establish what they call fundamentalist regimes. These organizations rely on violence and terrorism to advance their extreme versions of Islamic law, establish and expand their influence, and persecute their opponents. They are known to impose cruel punishments rarely used by governments in Islamic history, such as stoning and others that traditional Islamic law explicitly prohibits, such as crucifixion.
But what is Sharia law? What does this mean for Muslims in Britain today? And how should we respond to the emergence of Sharia rates (sometimes mistakenly referred to as “courts”) in the UK, which are often said to promote a parallel legal system and gender discrimination? Most of the world`s fifty or so Muslim-majority countries have laws related to Sharia, the direction that Muslims believe God has given in a number of spiritual and secular matters. Some of these countries have laws calling for critics to call cruel punishment or inappropriately restrict the lives of women and minorities. However, there is great diversity in how governments interpret and apply Sharia law, and people often misunderstand the role it plays in legal systems and in the lives of individuals. We see this in the development of various schools of thought. In the first centuries of Islam, there was disagreement between different groups of jurists over the correct process of interpreting the Qur`an and the Sunnah. As a result, different law schools (Madhhab) developed in different regions, each offering slightly different conclusions about what God expected of Muslims in a given situation. Among Sunni Muslims, there are four surviving law schools (Hanafi, Hanbali, Maliki, Shafi`i), all of which can be considered “orthodox.” While jurists disagreed on some issues, many realized that disagreements (ikthilaf) were inevitable and even legitimate as long as the basic principles of Islam were respected. For Muslims, there is more plurality in Islamic law today than ever before. Suitably qualified lawyers may issue fatwas or expressions of opinion on certain issues of Muslim life. But a fatwa only binds the issuer and those who have committed to it, reflecting the principle that fiqh of human origin is ultimately fallible (although in practice some scholars may try to present their fatwa as universally binding). Thus, Muslims, especially those outside Muslim-majority countries, are not obliged to obey all fatwa issued by clerics. .